March of the Machine and The Aftermath Storylines Disappointed Fans

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Magic: The Gathering started as a fantasy TCG to entertain Dungeons & Dragons players between games, but in the decades since, it evolved to become so much more. Now, MTG is an expansive TCG supported by deep and expansive lore that takes place across the entire multiverse. Among its myriad storylines are memorable sagas like The Brothers’ War and the Weatherlight that are simply iconic, and fans look back on them fondly today.

Nowadays though, MTG has adopted a new storytelling strategy that isn’t going down well with the fans, and many players were bitterly disappointed by March of the Machine and its follow-up micro-set The Aftermath. Even if MTG is a trading card game first, Redditors agree that the lore has become a simple tool to sell sets and cards, and new and experienced players alike aren’t satisfied. Fortunately, there may be ways to fix this, and Wizards of the Coast is taking small steps in the right direction.


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Magic: The Gathering’s Story Is Mostly Written to Sell Packs, And It’s Getting Tiresome

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Magic: The Gathering spent many years carefully balancing its trading cards with its lore, and players were generally happy with the split. In the 1990s and 2000s, WotC released full-length novels to flesh out the story of each card set and block, which were included in fat packs like for the Kamigawa block. Over time, this balance shifted, and by now, WotC treats MTG as a commercial product first and as a fantasy story second. MTG‘s story features more planes and characters than ever, but as many fans noted, the story uses them in cheap and shallow ways that serve the cards, not the lore.

This is the opposite of using cards to tell a story, which is something older MTG sets were fabled for. Instead, stories are written with cards in mind, serving as mere context for expansions like March of the Machine — including Story Spotlight cards. The story seems to emphasize sheer spectacle and “what if” scenarios above all, creating a cartoonish and contrived narrative with rough pacing, plot armor and tired tropes.

This is mostly so that WotC can temporarily write characters out of the story, then bring them back later to make future products more interesting. Simply put, MTG‘s story has turned into promotional material for card sets, and it’s glaringly obvious to anyone who reads MTG‘s older chapters and compares them to recent expansion sets. The story serves the products rather than the other way around, and it’s all because WotC is putting profits first to sell packs at the story’s expense.

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It’s Time For MTG’s Story to Get Back on Track

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Fortunately, it’s never too late for Wizards of the Coast to reverse the trend, especially if there’s enough pushback from the community, and future card sets are a ripe opportunity to make some much-needed changes. Although WotC continues to overplay its hand by giving Planeswalkers excessive plot armor, the story is making small progress in a few places, like by killing off Gideon Jura and Dack Fayden in 2019’s War of the Spark set. This shows the writers are at least capable of killing off some characters, and they should keep going in this direction so that the story builds some real stakes and tension.

WotC should also resume producing full-length novels that provide the definitive story, then design card sets loosely based on those novels. This model worked excellently before, and it could work well again. Best of all, the post-invasion era of the Multiverse is a great time to explore a wider variety of exotic planes focusing on local conflicts, all while limiting the roles of Planeswalker characters. Already, several Planeswalkers like Jace Beleren, Sarkhan Vol and Nissa Revane have been demoted to creature status. WotC should keep things this way and stop giving new fan-favorite characters plot armor in the future.

By focusing on local conflicts on planes like Eldraine and Ixalan, MTG‘s story can go in any direction, since major character deaths or even mass destruction won’t impact the wider multiverse. These self-contained settings are ideal for fully fleshed-out stories where anything can happen, with places and characters players will love no matter how many booster packs they buy.


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